Physical PhiladelphiaI love Inga Saffron's column in the Inquirer because she relentlessly points out the need for Philadelphia leaders to pay attention to our physical city. In this week's column, she draws our attention to the 36 new residential high-rises planned for Philadelphia.
At their best, the new high-rises increase density, concentrating a lot of people in a little space. That's good for Philadelphia because density brings livelier, safer sidewalks, more businesses and restaurants, and more potential customers for SEPTA. But you can't expect to cram all those people and their cars in the same space without any preparation or planning.
Yet projects are whizzing through Philadelphia's zoning process with almost no review and no consciousness about how they fit into the greater whole. The zoning board still insists that towers be built with parking spaces for every unit. In most cases, developers take the easy way out and build stand-alone garages, either as bases under their towers or on sites next door. Both approaches run counter to planning wisdom. Cities like Seattle are working to limit garages or encourage underground parking.
Please read the full article.
The behavior of the Philadelphia Zoning board is a growing problem as our city attracts new people and businesses. Short-sightedness, cronyism, and perhaps some downright corruption have left our city without a clear set of guidelines for development, despite our city planning commission, which consistently provides clear vision and planning. Of course, the solution to this problem is to work on electing more responsive leaders. But, that will take a while. And as you can see from Saffron's article, changes to the physical landscape of Philadelphia are happening quickly. So, I think it makes sense to advocate now for rational zoning practices, and to make sure that we ask our new leaders to articulate their vision for our physical city when they try to win our votes.